As a parent or guardian, we want nothing more than to raise happy, well-adjusted, self-sufficient human beings. During the early years of preschool and elementary school, building autonomy at home is crucial to building confidence. Maybe you find your child pushing back and saying ‘no’ more often than usual – a telltale sign he or she is looking for more control of their life. St. Petersburg child therapist Juli Hindsley offers advice and guidance on how to work with a child to find better balance.
Hindsley suggests starting to offer choices about things that “don’t really matter.” This may include the type of shoes they wear, even if they choose two different ones, or what kind of clothes they want to wear when possible. You can even let them decide how many minute are left to play by asking ‘do you want to play for two more minutes or three more minutes before we head to the car for school pick-up?’
Other options include inviting your child to help with the menu for dinner. For example, Hindsley says parents can ask their child to pick the vegetable for everyone. The St. Petersburg-based child therapist says that letting children pick the order of routine bedtime activities can lead to an increased sense of self ownership for a child. Give your child three to five activities and ask them to choose which order they’d like to accomplish them in. Hindsley even says it helps to make a game out of it or even visual with a magnetic chart.
Hindsley offers this advice to parents, “A little control and decision making goes a long way with this age group. Show them how proud you are of their decision making.”
The Child & Family Therapy Center offers parent coaching sessions, which go through these topics and more in great detail.